William M. Dowd photosMara Krausz of Cabaret Foods doesn't view her Cabaret Brewed Chocolate as just any hot chocolate drink. She views it through more of a mystical prism.
A taste test of the product certainly verifies that it is far removed from the usual Swiss Miss, Hershey's or other such mass-produced hot chocolate drinks. I found it reminiscent of the beverages of childhood, longer ago than I care to admit and well before the U.S. market went on a sickening-sweet drinks kick delivered through sucrose-laden powders.
The company's whole bean brewing method, the result of two years of research, is credited with the new product.
"Brewed chocolate is nothing like conventional hot chocolate, primarily because it contains almost no fat," Krausz said. "It's a clean, delicate water-based hot beverage based on the recipes of the ancient Mexicans -- the first people to recognize the psychic pleasures of brewed chocolate -- but modified to appeal to modern tastes and demands for convenience."
Historians generally believe cocoa, from which chocolate is created, originated in the Amazon region of South American 4,000 years ago. It became a favorite of the Mayan culture in the 6th century A.D. Their word "xocoatl" -- bitter water -- became the word "chocolate."
The Mayan culture eventually covered Central America and parts of northern South America. In the Yucatán peninsula of what now is Mexico, the Mayans cultivated the earliest know cocoa plantations. The Aztec civilization also used cocoa for a thick, cold unsweetened health drink known as "xocoatl." Because sugar was unknown to the Aztecs, they flavored the drink with spices and cornmeal. In 1502, Christopher Columbus landed in what now is Nicaragua and found cocoa being used as currency as well as a drink.
Convenience is a byword for today's Cabaret style drink. The product is made from whole cacao beans, water and organic evaporated cane juice. Stir a teaspoon of the concentrated product into a half-cup of hot water and you have the drink. Even though each teaspoon is made with nearly a full ounce of whole cocoa beans, it is surprisingly light.
The Oakland, CA, company recently ran a Web-based call to test its beverage. A number of the respondents reported an energy lift "without any jittery quality," Krausz says.
I waited the recommended 30 minutes to see if I felt any energizing rush. I didn't. However, my companion taste tester and I did spend a relaxing quarter-hour discussing the drink. We agreed it had a vaguely coffee look to it, was far from the usual cocoa-y hot chocolate drinks, and was a pleasing change of pace.
Krausz said Cabaret Foods is trying to get a handle on "whether this product makes sense as a non-alcoholic alternative for bars and/or wine stores."
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